Paul Pelosi attack: Immigration officials say suspect was in US illegally

ByLuz Pena and Lena Howland via KGO logo
Friday, November 4, 2022
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, released from hospital after being seriously injured during targeted break-in at SF home.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- David DePape, the man accused of violently attacking Paul Pelosi last week, was in the United States illegally and may face deportation, the Department of Homeland Security said late Wednesday.

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged an immigration detainer on Canadian national David DePape with San Francisco County Jail, Nov. 1, following his Oct. 28 arrest," the department said.

MORE: Security cameras at Pelosi's SF home not monitored at time of break-in, police confirm

ICE issues so-called immigration "detainers" to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to inform them that the agency intends to take custody of an individual and requests that ICE be notified before that individual is released.

The detainer is unlikely to affect DePape's case since deportations often happen after criminal cases are resolved. But after conviction and prison sentence, the US normally would seek deportation.

EXCLUSIVE: Former partner of accused Paul Pelosi attacker DePape reveals new details about suspect

"They place this hold on a person who's in criminal custody, meaning as soon as the criminal justice system is done, completing its work with this person, and then that person is done serving whatever sentence, if they are sentenced to a crime, then immigration will come pick them up directly," Anna Benvenue, an associate professor of law at Golden Gate University said.

Benvenue explains DePape likely won't face deportation until both his state and federal charges have made their way through the judicial system, including time served behind bars.

"The system is designed to make sure people serve their sentence before being deported," she said. "The punishment system that we have in criminal justice kind of takes first priority."

VIDEO: State Sen. Weiner remembers Pelosi attack suspect from 10 years ago; details death threats he's faced

Federal records show that DePape entered the U.S. as a temporary visitor in 2008. Canadians who present themselves at the border typically do not need a visa and are admitted into the U.S. for six months.

"This was politically motivated, he was seeking out the Speaker," Brooke Jenkins, the San Francisco District Attorney said.

Keep in mind, Jenkins says DePape was looking specifically to break Speaker Pelosi's kneecaps and take her hostage, saying he wasn't happy with how things were going in Washington D.C.

"Certainly interesting considering the alleged motives that we're hearing from reporting about this situation, that he would take such an American, like he's acting on behalf of Americans in a way that I would not expect from somebody who wasn't American," Benvenue said.

Bill Hing, Professor of Law and Director of Law and Director of the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco doesn't believe DePape will be deported any time soon despite his immigration status.

"ICE will not get this person until after he has served his time assuming that he is convicted," said Professor Hing.

On Saturday, a day after the attack DePape's former partner gave insight about his immigration status.

"I don't think he had a visa. He was just here. He didn't ask for a visa. He just stayed here," said Oxane Taub. "One time he went back to Canada when we broke up and then he came back."

It's believed that DePape overstayed his six month temporary visa to be in the U.S. DePape was arrested in San Francisco, a sanctuary city, but in this case this protection won't help DePape.

"The sanctuary ordinance does not protect someone who has been convicted of a serious crime. So, assuming he is convicted of a serious crime sanctuary ordinance will not protect him," said Hing.

DePape entered a not guilty plea Tuesday to all state charges during his initial appearance in court. He will be back in court Friday for a bail hearing related to his state charges.

There has not been a date set for his federal court appearance at this time.

CNN contributed to this report.

VIDEO: Who's David DePape? What we know about suspect in attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband at SF home

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